It's Time to Take a Stand

Before I use this blog to step up on my proverbial soap box, I must make a disclaimer: I am not a political activist. In fact, what is happening in Texas public education right now is the reason I despise politics. In case you haven't heard or are too self-involved to care, Texas public schools are in trouble--not just any trouble-- but what my three-year-old would call "big bad trouble." $15-27 billion worth of trouble (depending on which "parent" you ask). Listen to the local news and count the number of times you hear "school district" and "budget cuts" in the same sentence--you don't have enough fingers and toes to keep track. Rather than look at the problem objectively, some politicians see things in hues of red or blue. Politics, pride, and that sense of who is "right" are getting in the way of common sense for some of our lawmakers down in Austin.

While school districts are slashing at already meager budgets, cutting positions, and raising the anxiety levels of thousands of Texans, $9.3 billion sits in a "rainy day" fund , and $830 million awaits a signature that would release federal aid to teachers. This is where the nasty game of politics comes in to play. I know that politicians have their reasons for not using these funds, and I am not saying that this would fix our school finance problem in Texas. The fact is that we have to find a way to better fund our public schools. I also agree that districts can be wiser with their funds; budgets can be trimmed to avoid frivolous spending. I wish our legislators could look at this problem objectively, without political motives, and weigh the pros and cons of using these available funds. In my mind, it's as if we are drowning in the middle of the ocean, someone throws us a life preserver, but we are too stubborn and too prideful to grab hold. We would rather sink than be saved. Increase class sizes, cut thousands of jobs, slash successful programs, deny students access to libraries and their resources--how can this seem like a better alternative than using a fund that is meant to get us through tough times? Honestly, I would just like to know what constitutes a "rainy day" to Rick Perry. Because from where I'm standing, a tornado is about to terrorize Texas.

I do not pretend to understand all of the issues surrounding this mess. I am doing my best to stay informed, to stay rational, to try to understand all sides before I jump to conclusions, to not let my emotions get the best of me. But I refuse stay quiet any longer. It is not enough to shake my head while watching the news or complain to my friends and family about this horrible crisis, so I will embrace the part of American politics that I appreciate: I will use my voice. And that is what we all must do.

PLEASE click on the following links to find out how you can contact your local representative and voice your concerns for the crisis that plagues Texas public education. I haven't even touched on the danger that libraries are in under the proposed budget cuts.

Please click HERE to send an email urging legislators to restore library funding.

Please click HERE to find out more about the state-wide rally in Austin on March 12 and what you can do to save Texas schools.

As I start to bang the keyboard and feel my blood pressure rising, I must stop before I launch into a tirade. But this is what if feels like to be passionate about a cause. It is my prayer that all Texans would unite and fight for the future of our state. You don't need to be an educator, a librarian, a parent, or a political activist to care about this issue. All you have to be is a TEXAN. We are in for a fight, and like any true Texan, we remember the Alamo.

The following letter was published in the Washington Post:

This is an open letter issued by John Kuhn, superintendent of thePerrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District. Addressed to Texas legislators, this plea for help is modeled on the famous letter that William Barret Travis sent from the Alamo right before it fell in 1836 (the text of which follows Kuhn’s). Kuhn refers to plans by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to cut billions of dollars from public school funding.

From: John Kuhn, Superintendent, Perrin-Whitt CISD To: Senator Estes, Representative Hardcastle, Representative Keffer, and Representative King during these grave times:


I am besieged, by a hundred or more of the Legislators under Rick Perry. I have sustained a continual Bombardment of increased high-stakes testing and accountability-related bureaucracy and a cannonade of gross underfunding for 10 years at least and have lost several good men and women. The ruling party has demanded another round of pay cuts and furloughs, while the school house be put to the sword and our children’s lunch money be taken in order to keep taxes low for big business. I am answering the demand with a (figurative) cannon shot, and the Texas flag still waves proudly from our flag pole. I shall never surrender the fight for the children of Perrin.

Then, I call on you my legislators in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy of public schools is declaring that spending on a shiny new high-stakes testing system is “non-negotiable”; that, in essence, we must save the test but not the teachers. The enemy of public schools is saying that Texas lawmakers won’t raise 1 penny in taxes in order to save our schools.

If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and fight for the kids in these classrooms like an educator who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his community. Make education a priority!

With all due respect and urgency,

John Kuhn Superintendent Perrin-Whitt CISD


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